Bradley snatches WGC from Furyk on 72nd hole

By Doug FergusonAugust 5, 2012, 10:24 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Keegan Bradley never looked like a winner over four days and 71 holes at Firestone until he poured in a 15-foot par putt on the final hole Sunday.

Given the way golf has gone this year, no one should have been surprised.

Two weeks after Adam Scott gave up a four-shot lead with four holes to play in the British Open, Jim Furyk was poised to finish off a wire-to-wire win at the Bridgestone Invitational until he made double bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway.

His 5-foot bogey putt to at least get into a playoff never had a chance, and he immediately dropped his putter and bent over with a mixture of shock and disgust.

''I led the golf tournament the entire way and lost it on the very last hole,'' Furyk said. ''To get that close and to know that I played more than good enough to win the golf tournament, and not close the door, is disappointing. It is a cruel game. I've lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don't think I've let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one. This was my worst effort to finish off an event.''

Lost in his 18th hole collapse was a sterling performance by Bradley, who shot 31 on the back and came up with one clutch putt after another. None was bigger than the final stroke of his 6-under 64. After blasting out of a plugged lie in the bunker, he poured in a 15-foot putt for par that turned out to be the winner.

''I didn't think for a second I was going to miss it,'' Bradley said. ''It was unbelievable. I got behind it, and I barely even had to read it. I knew the exact way it was going to break. I just needed to hit it hard enough. I knew that. And it was dead center.''

Furyk led by one shot playing the 18th and got a huge break when his tee shot bounced out of the trees to the left and back into the fairway. That's where it all fell apart. His 7-iron went long, into a bunker and hopped out into the collar. He had to place his left foot in the sand to play a shot with the ball sitting up, and the delicate chip barely cleared the bunker and settled into more thick grass.

The chip for his fourth shot was a clunker, stopping 5 feet short of the pin, and the bogey putt was what Furyk called ''my worst putt of the week.''

Bradley won for the third time in his career, his last win coming a year ago at the PGA Championship. He became the 11th player to win a major and a World Golf Championship, and the win moved him to No. 4 in the Ryder Cup standings. With one week left to grab one of eight spots, he's all but assured of making his first team.

''My hope standing on the 18th tee was to make birdie and maybe force a playoff,'' Bradley said. ''But you know, just from being out here, you just never know what's going to happen.''

It was the 11th time this year - and fourth time in the last five weeks - that the winner came from at least four shots behind in the final round.

The ending was devastating for Furyk in so many ways.

He was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open with three holes to play when he hooked his tee shot on the 16th hole, made bogey and never caught up. This time, he was in control at Firestone from his opening 63, all the way through the final round when he started with three straight birdies and made an 18-foot birdie on the 16th to seemingly hold off the late charge by Bradley.

''I have no one to blame but myself,'' Furyk said. ''But when things go wrong, it's an empty feeling. I'm disappointed. I walked over, my boy is crying right after the round. And I guess it reminds you as an adult - as a parent - that you have to act the proper way. You have to do and say the right things to try to give the right lessons.

''But there's no way I should have made any worse than 5 on the last hole,'' he said. ''There's no way I should have done worse than a playoff.''

He went from what appeared to be a certain win to a 69 and a tie for second with Steve Stricker, who made four birdies on his last five holes for a 64.

Bradley was four shots behind going into the final round, and was six shots back when Furyk opened with three straight birdies. Bradley kept pecking away at the lead, holing a 25-foot birdie putt on the seventh, scrambling for par on the 12th, and starting the back nine with a pair of birdies.

Furyk finally answered with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 16th, only for Bradley to follow him in for birdie from 12 feet. Bradley took only 12 putts on the back nine, including par saves on the final two holes.

He finished on 13-under 267.

Stricker found his putting stroke at Firestone - not that it was ever deep in hiding - and showed that down the stretch with his closing stretch of birdies. It was an important performance for Stricker, who moved up three spots to No. 10 in the Ryder Cup standings. Furyk is No. 11, followed by Rickie Fowler at No. 12.

Louis Oosthuizen closed with a 69 to finish alone in fourth. Justin Rose (67) and Rory McIlroy (68) were another shot behind.

Tiger Woods played bogey-free for a 66, his lowest score since a 65 in the second round at Bay Hill at the end of March. He was never in the tournament, 11 shots behind going into the final round, though he picked up the tiniest of consolations. He now has back-to-back finishes in the top 10 on the PGA Tour for the first time in nearly three years. And he at least heads to Kiawah Island feeling good about his game.

''I hit a lot of good shots and never really sniffed making a bogey all day,'' said Woods, who played his final 23 holes without a bogey. ''I feel very good about where I'm at. I'm excited about it.''

The nature of the course changed drastically with a quarter-inch of rain overnight, and a burst of showers that stopped play for nearly three hours Sunday morning. Shots to the green were spinning back instead of bouncing forward. Pars no longer were good enough.

Furyk picked up on that quickly, and came out even stronger than he did on Saturday. He dropped only one shot when he drove to the right into the trees on No. 6 and missed a 10-footer for par. He was rarely in jeopardy the rest of the way until he found himself in the middle of the fairway on the final hole, needing a par to win.

Instead, he watched someone else take home the $1.4 million first prize.

''Keegan played a heck of a back nine,'' Furyk said. ''He did everything he needed to do to win the golf tournament. I felt like I did the same, until the 18th hole.''

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."